Feb 13, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM is a breezy 445 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: Attorney General Bill Barr blasted Trump's tweets on the Roger Stone case, saying it's "impossible for me to do my job." Go deeper.

1 big thing: The Astros' apology tour

The Astros' Jose Altuve during a press conference in West Palm Beach. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Houston Astros are very sorry for cheating their way to a World Series win, even as their owner bizarrely flip-flopped on whether their cheating changed any games.

Why it matters: The sign-stealing scandal is among the biggest since the steroid era, spilling over into other clubs and giving MLB some nasty publicity.

What they're saying in Florida, where the Astros are beginning spring training:

  • 3B/SS Alex Bregman: “I am really sorry about the choices that were made by our team, the organization and by me."
  • 2B José Altuve: "We had a great team meeting last night and the whole organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017. We especially feel remorse for our fans and for the game of baseball."
  • Owner Jim Crane: “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series, and we’ll leave it at that."
  • Less than a minute later, Crane said, "I didn't say it didn't impact the game."

Between the lines: The Astros' flexibility with the rules "was an open secret," the WashPost reports, citing people across all levels of the sport.

  • “The whole industry knows they’ve been cheating their a---- off for three or four years,” a team exec told the Post. “Everybody knew it.”
  • Back in November, the Astros were exposed for sign-stealing by The Athletic, leading to an MLB probe.
  • Earlier this year, MLB fined the Astros $5 million and axed their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. The GM and manager were suspended by MLB, then fired by the Astros.

The bottom line: The bill has come due for bad behavior, a trend that mirrors the rise of accountability demands across our culture — even as some of the worst actors skate on by.

Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

A visitor arrives to lay flowers at a wall commemorating victims of the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany.

  • Today is the 75th anniversary of the bombing, which killed at least 25,000 people.
2. What you missed
  1. Hope Hicks and John McEntee are returning to the White House. Go deeper.
  2. The Senate passed a war powers resolution curbing President Trump's ability to launch military action against Iran without congressional authorization. Go deeper.
  3. More Huawei charges: The Justice Department announced a 16-count superseding indictment against the Chinese telecom giant and its CFO. Go deeper.
  4. Microsoft rollout blocked: A federal judge has temporarily blocked the $10 billion cloud computing contract the Defense Department awarded to Microsoft as it reviews a lawsuit by Amazon. Go deeper.
  5. McClatchy — publisher of the Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee and other major papers —has filed for bankruptcy to allow the company to restructure its debt and pension obligations. Go deeper.
3. 1 space snowman
Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko via AP

The big news from Arrokoth, the most distant object ever explored, is that there are no signs of water, AP reports.

  • More than a year after its close encounter with the object, the New Horizons spacecraft is still sending back data from more than 4 billion miles away.
  • “The data rate is painfully slow from so far away,” said Will Grundy of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.